FAYETVILLE, Arkansas. Alabama demoralized every team in the SEC for Nick Saban’s unprecedented 16-year reign of championships and Heisman winners, but no program has suffered more than Arkansas.

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The Razorbacks are the only team in the SEC West to never defeat Saban’s Tide, a trend that has long seemed a foregone conclusion as fans scour the schedule for years without an iPhone, a college football playoff, a worldwide pandemic, or a massive conference reorganization. The Tide have won the last 15 games of the series by an average margin of 26 points.

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“History,” the Arkansas coach said. Sam Pittman, “can’t keep repeating, even though it’s been repeating for the last 15 years. At some point, that will change.”

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The expectations here in Arkansas are not so dire these days. Pittman revived the program, which was mostly in the basement of SEC West after being fired Bobby Petrino in 2011. The Hogs won nine games in 2021 and were competitive for the first time in a decade, losing 42–35 in Tuscaloosa. defender K.J. Jefferson threw for 326 yards and three touchdowns, and the Hogs scored at will.

“It helped our faith,” Pittman said. “Honestly, the game wasn’t as close as seven, we were losing most of the time, but they kept fighting – kept coming back.”

However, a loss is a loss. Close isn’t enough, and the Hogs were reminded of that oh-so-very-close disappointment last week when they hit the heartbreaking Texas A&M in Arlington, Texas. The Boars missed a field goal when Cam Little’s 42-yard attempt bounced off the top right post and went straight into the air in the final minutes of a 23–21 loss. The victory would have ensured an unbeaten showdown between the top 10 teams in Arkansas and Alabama, for the first time in Fayetteville. ESPN College GameDay was set to host its hit TV show outside Razorback Stadium for the first time in 16 years.

But none of this happened. The Hogs took a 14-0 lead but regressed after Jefferson fumbled the ball at the goal line and the Aggies turned a 21-7 deficit into a 14-14 draw late in the second quarter. Now Arkansas is trying to regroup after an emotional week.

“The bad thing is that we were beaten,” Pittman said. “It’s good that it hurt us.”

No. 2 Alabama (4-0, 1-0 SEC) and No. 20 Arkansas (3-1, 1-1) on CBS (Saturday, 3:30 pm ET) is definitely still an intriguing matchup , and fans at Natural State are outraged. There is real, tangible hope that the Sharpbacks can finally beat the Tide. Not only does Arkansas have a team capable of matching the Tide with players like Jefferson, running back Rocket Sanders and linebacker. Drew Sanders (translated from Alabama), but the invincible squad of Saban suddenly began to look mortal. Four of Alabama’s last five road games, including a loss to Texas A&M last season, were decided on average by two points. (Pittman promptly reminds the reporter, “We also know that one in five cases was explosive.” [Alabama 49, Mississippi State 3]too much.”)

The Tide avoided a showdown in Texas with a 20–19 win in the second week of the season. In an uncharacteristic way, Tide took 15 penalties, the most in the Saban era, in just three quarters, and needed Heisman winner Bryce Young to show some late-game heroics to score the game-winning field goal.

The performance, even with a victory, failed Saban, a perfectionist.

“We used to play better on the road than at home,” Saban said on his radio show last week. “Because we had some hateful opponents on our team and when they played on the road they were mad at 100,000 people, not just the 11 guys they were playing against. They wanted to prove something to everyone. And as time goes on, I think maybe the focus is just on winning the game.”

Not only does Arkansas have to deal with their own emotions this week after a crushing loss to Aggie, it looks like they also have to host a disgruntled visitor loaded with one of the nation’s most talented lineups led by the Heisman winner, the nation’s top pass rusher. and the greatest coach of all time.

“(Saban) likes it when the stadium is empty,” Alabama security says. Jordanian battle told reporters this week. “I remember that feeling last year when we lost to Texas A&M. Then we went to play in Mississippi State after that, and we gave them that hit, and I saw him smiling towards the end of the game when the Mississippi State crowd got up and started to leave. It made him very happy.”

The Tide’s goal is to get Arkansas fans out of the stadium by the end of the third quarter, said Will Andersonthe best pass rusher in the country.

“I respect the Alabama, they’re a great team, but they’re not invincible.” – Arkansas quarterback Jordan Dominic told reporters this week. “They’ve been lost before and we just can’t put them on that pedestal where we come into the game thinking, ‘Oh, we’re just going to lose, how bad are we going to lose?’ No, we must enter the game and understand that now we are on an equal footing. We have to go out and play like we’re the best team. We are replaying. We can’t just go there and make moves.”

The aforementioned third quarter is also the period when the Razorbacks struggle the most. They were down 41-13 in the third quarter of this season, and last week they only managed 21 yards against Aggie in a 15-minute frame. The week before, they had to rally behind a 10-point deficit against Petrino’s FCS Missouri State in the fourth quarter with three touchdowns.

“We have a problem to solve,” Pittman said. “We’re trying to do it in training, trying to change a little bit what we do in the second half, even in the warm-up and how we flex, to see if that changes.”

Change. It might be the word of the week in Arkansas.

“Like Arkansas, can they go in there and be a constant pain in the ass? Yes,” Pittman said of the SEC landscape. “And Tennessee maybe? Yes. They had great success. The big boys will be there all the time, and then the other guys will come. And so it happened.”

The challenge this week is to reverse 15 years of terrible history with their most talented roster in a decade against a well-oiled championship car that bogged down on the road. But this Alabama hot rod caught fire after a couple of crushing wins over ULM and Vanderbilt in Tuscaloosa, and after Saban defied the recent Tide trend on the road.

“I tell people all the time that the other team’s audacity to even get on the field is disrespectful to me,” said the Alabama pass rusher. Will Anderson, who led the nation in sacks and tackle last season. “I tell this to people all the time. People ask me what motivates me, I talk about the audacity of fans showing up and the team taking the field and playing with us. It’s kind of like my own little thing in my head that I run through.”